We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.
Appearance: 15th overall, tenth consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost to Germany in quarterfinals
Best performance: Two-time champion (1978 and 1986)
During qualifying, a coaching change meant the start of the Diego Maradona era for the Argentines.
Problem: He's never been a club coach and his lack of experience has led to some entertainment for the wrong reasons.
Maradona, according to reports, won't take the advice of team manager Carlos Bilardo, who coached Maradona on the 1986 team that won the World Cup. He's picked an awesome number of players (I've seen a couple different numbers, both over 80) for the team's qualifying matches and friendlies, and despite their status as a world power in the sport, Argentina didn't end up qualifying for the World Cup by much.
Now that they're there, and they have a very favorable draw (grouped with Greece, Nigeria, and South Korea), look for Argentina to make some noise. Forward Lionel Messi is probably the world's best player, Juan Sebastian Veron is a very capable midfielder, and Martin Demichelis leads the defense. Javier Mascherano plays professionally for the Premier League's Liverpool, and he is quite solid with Veron in the midfield.
However, despite 18 appearances in qualifying matches, Messi only scored four goals, far below the rate he is known for scoring at on club team Barcelona. Is it the coaching staff and their way of playing that keeps Messi off the board, or is this just the product of a small sample size?
Argentina does indeed have a favorable draw, but they're paired with Group A for the tournament's second round, and they will have to overcome Maradona's stunning lack of experience (and, apparently, his troublesome ego, too) in order to go much farther.
June 12 vs. Nigeria (Johannesburg -- Ellis Park)
June 17 vs. South Korea (Johannesburg -- Soccer City)
June 22 vs. Greece (Polokwane)